University of Vermont

Ninth Annual Scholarship Dinner Brings UVM Students, Donors Together

Scholarship donor and professor of English emerita Mary Jane Dickerson delivers a “prose poem” she composed for the occasion that ended with the names of students who have benefited from her scholarship. (Photo: Sally McCay)

The University of Vermont raised nearly $8 million in scholarship support from alumni and other private donors last year, and Thursday night was the moment for grateful students to say “thanks.”

Among the scholarship recipients attending was Kane Tobin, a junior enrolled in the School of Business Administration. Tobin is a 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served two deployments in Afghanistan as a helicopter crew chief and door gunner immediately following high school in Hyannis, Mass. College is a personal dream he wanted to pursue after fulfilling what he felt was a debt to his country, he said.

“Scholarship support speaks volumes about the university and the importance that the university places on supporting its student body,” Tobin said.

Thanks to scholarship support from alumnus John Frank ’79 and a Yellow Ribbon Scholarship awarded by UVM, matched by the U.S. Veterans Administration, Kane will be nearly debt-free when he graduates next spring. “On a personal level, it means that I am going to come out of school with less debt.... Receiving a scholarship drives me to work harder and to continue to be deserving of that gift.”

About 130 students and 170 benefactors attended the eighth annual “Celebrating Scholarship” dinner, which brought donors together with the students who are benefiting from their gifts.

The event, sponsored by University of Vermont Foundation with President Tom Sullivan and Leslie Black Sullivan ’77, was titled “Building the Future Together.” It featured remarks by Sullivan, Mary Jane Dickerson, associate professor of English emerita and a long-time supporter of scholarships for UVM students and third-year medical student Raj Thakrar, a student member of the UVM Board of Trustees.

Dickerson, a long-time champion of diversity at UVM, established a scholarship in 2007 to support English majors. She read a “prose poem” she composed for the occasion that alluded to the long struggle for civil rights in America. She ended, poignantly, with the names of students who have benefited from her scholarship. “The list of names on the Mary Jane Dickerson Fund will far outlast me,” she said. “Just as I had planned.”

President Sullivan thanked the donors present on behalf of the university and the students. “A gift of a scholarship is truly a gift of a lifetime,” he said. “Thank you for being our partners in making our students so successful — as students and well beyond as they leave us after graduation.”

Medical student Raj Thakrar, a former Medical Alumni Association Scholarship recipient and current Austin W. Lane & Janet C. Lane Scholar, said his reaction upon learning that he would receive scholarship support was to think about what he could do to reciprocate.

“It was more than just financial aid that would lessen the burden for my mother,” he said. “It was a catalyst for making a commitment to return the favor to this excellent institution.” He said he made a gift to the university as soon as he was able and urged his fellow students to consider doing the same. “Give back,” he said. “Your scholarship may not need to be paid back, but you can pay it forward.”

Master of ceremonies for the evening was Richard Bundy, president and CEO of the University of Vermont Foundation.

The event took place in the Grand Maple Ballroom of the Dudley H. Davis Center.